Six candidates who have put their hats in the ring for the Ward 2 seat on the D.C. Council — held for over 25 years by now beleaguered Jack Evans — debated a range of issues in a well-organized and civil two-hour discussion on Sept. 26 at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, a former mansion on the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and Q Street NW.
Moderator Delvone Michael, executive director of DC Working Families, kept the candidates, seated on a stage in front of an audience of about 200, answering a smooth flow of questions about D.C.’s challenges in transportation, affordable housing, criminal justice and education.
Many of the candidates had prepared remarks for each of the questions. As they spoke into handheld mics, their words appeared on a large screen behind them. They were strictly timed for their responses and most cooperated, even cutting themselves off in mid-sentence at times.
Evans did not participate, as he has not yet declared his candidacy for the 2020 race.
All six candidates — John Fanning, Jordan Grossman, Daniel Hernandez, Patrick Kennedy, Kishan Putta and Yilin Zhang — are participating in the District’s new public funds program, which provides matching dollars for those that the candidates raise individually from small donations (under $50).
Three are currently elected commissioners of their advisory neighborhood commissions, including Putta, a first-term commissioner of the Georgetown-Burleith-Hillandale ANC (2E) who had formerly served on the Dupont Circle ANC (2B); Kennedy, vice chairperson of the Foggy Bottom-West End ANC (2A); and Fanning, current chairperson of the Logan Circle ANC (2F).
Several of the candidates work in health and senior care, including Putta, Zhang and Grossman, a fifth-generation D.C. resident. Hernandez, a former Marine, is a Microsoft employee. Putta and Zhang are American-born children of immigrants from India and China respectively.
All the candidates favorably contrasted their progressive records on social issues, like prevention and prosecution of hate crimes and advocacy for minority groups, with Evans’s focus on business and economic development. They spoke of their plans to address the issues of affordable housing, public safety, education and gentrification taking place in and around Ward 2. All pushed for expanded programs to help lower-income residents and workers who live in the District.
Several of the candidates referred to the growing concern about Evans’s possible conflicts of interest, which remain under investigation. Most pledged not to have a second job if they were elected to the Council, which pays an annual salary of $140,000, and several said they would be one-term reps.
With the primary elections less than a year away, on June 16, 2020, the candidates appeared to be well into campaign mode, with brochures, websites, campaign social media sites and donation and volunteer processes. Numerous campaign appearances are being planned for the coming weeks and months.